VANCOUVER: Ninderjit Singh, the 35-year-old man convicted in the slaying of his girlfriend Poonam Randhawa here in 1999, was on Wednesday awarded life sentence by the British Columbia Supreme Court here.
He won’t be eligible for parole for 16 years and then deported to India after completion of his jail term.
After committing the crime 14 years ago, Singh had fled to California and lived under an assumed name in San Jacinto. He married and had two daughters there even as the woman – Navdeep – whom he married had no idea of his past. But an undercover operation led to his arrest in 2011.
Randhawa was murdered during her lunch break at Vancouver’s Sir Winston Secondary School on January 26, 1999, by Singh who shot her once in the head as she sat in the back of a friend’s car and then dumped her body on a street.
After the crime, he fled to the US with the help of friend who gave him a ride to Seattle and $200 to pay for a flight to LA. Singh told his friend that his aunt had died and he needed to be with his family.
He was convicted last month.
Handing down life sentence to Singh, Justice Bruce Butler said, “Mr. Singh’s moral culpability is high. The murder was committed with considerable forethought. It was proceeded by other acts of violence. It was committed in violation of an intimate relationship and it was committed with an illegal firearm.”
With the victim Randhawa family in the packed courtroom, Justice Butler said, “For more than 12 years, the Randhawas could not rest. They were denied closure and any sense of justice. They feared for themselves and for others knowing that Mr. Singh was still at large. It is difficult to comprehend the additional pain cause by Mr. Singh’s disappearance and failure to take responsibility for his actions.”
Singh’s wife Navdeep was seen sobbing as the sentence was delivered. Navdeep, who had said that she will speak after the sentence to her husband, was whisked out of the court by her family members.
But during the trial, a letter from her was read, saying, “I know he (Singh) is a hard worker and loving father. We all make mistakes and we all hope for a chance to right them.”
She had said their two little daughters missed their father, saying, “I know they have done nothing wrong. They are my little angels, so why punish them?”
Prosecutor Sandra Cunningham had demanded between 17 and 20 years for Singh before he can apply for parole.
But defence lawyer Russ Chamberlain had pleaded for minimum period eligibility for parole because Singh had no previous criminal record and that the crime was not pre-meditated.
Singh will be deported to India on completion of his jail term because he is not a Canadian citizen.
His story is a crime thriller. Within three days of the murder, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) had issued a warrant for his arrest.
The VPD investigation determined that within hours of the murder, Ninderjit Singh had boarded a plane in Seattle, Washington, bound for Los Angeles, California, where he had family connections on his mother’s side. Singh had previously lived in California in 1998 and worked at an uncle’s gas station.
By the year 2000, investigators believed that Ninderjit Singh was living in an apartment in San Jose, California. Surveillance was conducted, but it is believed Singh became aware of the police presence and fled before he could be arrested.
Ninderjit Singh was featured on the TV show America’s Most Wanted and was the focus of numerous media appeals.
On August 19, 2011, investigators located Ninderjit Singh at work in Irvine, California, but he had altered his appearance so much that investigators needed to be able to confirm his identity before arresting him.
His family had reportedly spent $150,000 for buying fake ID for him in the US. They had also paid for his surgery to change his fingerprints.
Singh and the victim (Poonam Randhawa) had a secret relationship not known to their parents when he was about 20 years and she 16. Two years later, when the girl started drifting from Singh, he became jealous of her.
On the day of the murder as he argued with Poonam in the back of his friend’s car, Singh told her that she was cheating on him.
According to the statement of facts read out in the court, Singh accused Poonam of cheating on him, held his gun to her head and threatened to shoot her.
Poonam said, “I am not scared. Go ahead, shoot me.’’ And the next moment she was dead.